So the last two episodes of the show have been something else. In the wake of the revelations made in the recent Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier movie, that HYDRA is still alive and kicking and has even infiltrated SHIELD at its highest levels, the nature and direction of the show has shifted significantly. The current team of heroes, already suffering from trust issues with the establishment, has more cause than ever to trust anyone but themselves, and even that isn’t saying much since there have been several betrayals on that front already. Despite some conflict over whether last week’s episode was good or not, I gave it the benefit of doubt and tuned in this week, only to be disappointed, again.
The new episode basically maintains the status quo. All the fun action and weirdness of the previous episode is pretty much gone and this one is, as a friend put it to me when we discussed the episode, just setting the pieces for the finale, which is going to be very soon. The thing that gets me is that the characters still act as if they can do whatever the hell they want (looking at you, Coulson) without any regard for anything else. And the story doesn’t really move forward any, nor do we have even a hint of any appearance from two of SHIELD’s biggest names: Nick Fury and Maria Hill.
Last week’s episode pretty much confirmed that Agent Ward’s betrayal at the end of the episode prior to that, which was a direct Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier tie-in, was no double blind, and that this was the character’s true face. It was very disappointing personally because the betrayal came out of nowhere and though it made Ward much more interesting than before, it still reeked of shoddy execution. But, if that’s how the writers want to roll with it, then who am I to say otherwise. I’ll roll with it as well, I guess and just cringe through all of Ward’s scenes, as I did in this episode.
Speaking of, this episode had one of the most cringe-worthy scenes of the show. Ward makes an appearance at the secret Canadian base where Team Coulson is recuperating and before Coulson can take a splinter team back out to deal with all the rogue SHIELD prisoners who are now free thanks to HYDRA’s attack on the agency’s prison facility the Fridge, the agent in-charge of the base wants to put everyone through a lie-detector test. The machine for said test is designed by Fury himself to be good enough to catch Agent Romanoff (Black Widow) in a lie. You can see where I’m going with this. Excepting Coulson, every member of the team is put through the test and they all pass with flying colours. Ward we know is going to have a problem and he does, but then he beats it. Straight up. I didn’t like the implication personally, that a no-name agent created for the show and has shown no prior “super” ability to lie (well…) is better than one of SHIELD’s finest, someone who was trained for undercover espionage and is a master of such.
What the episode does really well is introduce us finally to Phil Coulson’s once-mentioned cellist from The Avengers, the woman he was in love with before he suffered an untimely death at Loki’s hand. Played by Amy Acker, the character of Audrey Nathan is quite interesting, especially once the details emerge of how she and Coulson got together in the first place. It adds a lot of layers to Coulson’s character, which I must admit despite my earlier mention to my friend that the episode lacked significant character development. Its just that nothing major actually happens in this episode. It is all about the new status quo and the main plot is effectively stalled.
Last episode we saw that Coulson was being proactive. In this episode too we see that, but he is still reacting to things more than he should be I think.
Still, all in all, this episode provided some nice callbacks to Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier such as when Agent Koenig asks the team members during their individual assessments about Project Insight and Alexander Pierce. These are the kinds of things that the show has needed more of for a long while and what the showrunners have finally started to deliver on properly.
The long and short of it is that the episode looks at each character individually rather than as a team. With the emergence of HYDRA within SHIELD’s ranks, loyalties everywhere are frayed and every character is uncertain about the other. None more so than Fitz and Simmons since the former has developed romantic feelings for the latter, and Simmons is herself struggling to find her place in the grand scheme of things. The kicker comes in the form of Agent May however, who makes a rather drastic decision in the episode and the final scene of the episode deals with her ties to both Nick Fury and Maria Hill as we meet yet another awesome and kickass female character. Now that was awesome.
In addition to everything going on with the team on a personal level, they also deal with a supervillain, ostensibly called Blackout since he can effectively cause an electronics blackout and can do the same for the life energy coursing through living beings. This plays into the subplot with Audrey Nathan and Phil Coulson, all of which I think was one of the better moments of the episode when compared with everything that happens on Providence Base with Skye, Ward and Koenig.
However, the best moments in the episode were undoubtedly provided by Patton Oswalt’s Agent Koenig, who was introduced last episode. His dry witticisms utterly rocked and he got to be quite the badass during the individual team assessments, and he also managed to be a charming and warm character at the same time, easily bonding with the team members, except for Ward of course. I loved him and would have loved to have seen even more. Sadly, that is no longer a possibility.
I kind of thought that the episode was mostly boring, going by gut-feeling, but it did have some good moments. I keep trying to think that now the season is close to being over and we are in the final phase, that the showrunners would continue to hit us with more revelations and more big events, but nothing of the sort seems to be happening at the moment. And you can probably skip this episode and not miss a beat.
More Agents of SHIELD reviews can be found here. I’ve reviewed every episode so far.